April 28 is the official day to celebrate staying safe and healthy in the workplace. International standards developed by ISO for protective clothing and machine safety to safety signs and ergonomics support the objectives of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, an initiative of the International Labor Organization (ILO). According to ILO statistics, every 15 seconds, a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease and 160 workers have a work-related accident. Many of these accidents could be prevented by the implementation of ISO standards.

ISO Secretary-General Rob Steele says, "ISO's portfolio of more than 18 000 standards includes hundreds whose implementation can increase safety and promote health in the workplace. In addition to protecting workers, they provide guidance for employers when making purchasing decisions as well as state-of-the-art technical detail to underpin regulations and legislation. Because they are International Standards, they help to harmonize safety and health requirements around the world and thus facilitate cross-border trade."

ISO technical committees and subcommittees whose work is particularly relevant to the concerns of the World Day for Safety and Health at Work include the following:

ISO/TC 94, Personal safety — Protective clothing and equipment develops standards which, when implemented, can ensure that protective clothing meets the level of protection needed by employees and provide guidance for purchasing managers and regulators. ISO/TC 94 has developed 97 standards and 28 countries participate in its work with another 35 as observers.

ISO/TC 199, Safety of machinery — Standardization of general principles for safety of machinery incorporating terminology and methodology is the primary activity of ISO/TC 199. The main parties involved in the work are industry (manufacturers and designers), governmental health and safety bodies, national boards for occupational health and safety, public authorities, trade union confederations, and employers' associations. Both the ILO and the World Health Organization have liaison status with ISO/TC 199. ISO/TC 199 has developed 35 standards and has 27 participating countries and 23 observer countries.

ISO/TC 146, Air quality — The general public, workers, and/or the environment can be exposed to hazardous substances in air, whether occurring naturally or released by industrial processes or household appliances and products. Therefore, the presence of these substances in air, emissions to air, and in indoor air needs to be limited. Developing standardized methods for measuring the concentration of air pollutants is the work of ISO/TC 146, Air quality, and especially of its subcommittee SC 2, Workplace atmospheres. It has developed 27 standards and has 21 participating countries and 13 observer countries.

ISO/TC 145/SC 2, Safety identification — Standardization in the field of graphical symbols is the work of ISO/TC 145/SC 2, Safety identification, signs, shapes, symbols, and colors. Graphical symbols are an important means of conveying danger and safety related information in the workplace, concisely and independently of language – an important consideration in view of today's mobility of labor. ISO/TC 145/SC 2 has developed 14 standards; it has 14 participating countries and 16 observer countries.

ISO/TC 159, Ergonomics — The standards developed by ISO/TC 159, Ergonomics/SC 4, Ergonomics of human-system interaction, helps to meet requirements for designing work systems, work equipment, and products according to human characteristics in order to enhance the usability of these products and thus the productivity, health, safety, and well being of the operator or user. ISO/TC 159/SC 4 has developed 50 standards; 22 countries participate in its work with another 11 as observers.

ISO/TC 43, Acoustic — Exposure of workers to intense noise or noise over long periods can lead to hearing damage and other physiological impairments. The standards developed by ISO/TC 43, Acoustic, and especially its subcommittee SC 1, Noise, can lead to lower noise exposure levels in the workplace therefore reduce the risk for hearing damage and annoyance. ISO/TC 43/SC 1 has developed 117 standards and has 25 participating countries and 18 observer countries.

ISO/TC 108, Mechanical vibration, shock, and condition monitoring, and its subcommittees, particularly SC 4, Human exposure to mechanical vibration and shock, develops international standards that can help reduce the harmful effects of vibration on humans in the workplace. These standards are also useful for the design and monitoring of workplace machinery. ISO/TC 108/SC 4 has developed 26 standards; 19 participating countries participate in its work and another 14 have observer status.

Other ISO standards with relevance to safety and health in the workplace address topics as varied as equipment for fire fighting and fire protection, welding, tractors and machinery for agriculture and forestry, competency requirements for crane inspectors, risk management in cold workplaces, and new subjects such as safer ship recycling and the manufacturing and handling of nanomaterials.

For more information, visit www.iso.org.